The ability to recognize that it is not a good practice to tattle on someone when you are the entire cause of the problem is not known to children naturally. They have to learn it. And we parents are to be the unwitting teachers in that endeavor. Sooner or later, the kids pick it up. However I would have thought that #4 would already be familiar with that truth. I have written about it before in the past post Discipline and Observation.
When #4 walked in hauling #5 by the arm, he looked as guilty as if he had been caught stealing cookies. #4 presented her captive to Wife as to an executioner. She announced, “He stepped on #6’s head!”
Wife turned to the four year-old. “Why did you step on your brother’s head?”
#5 stammered, “I… well… I didn’t… well she pushed me!” He pointed an accusing finger at #4.
She seemed to shrink into herself like a turtle as Wife rounded on her. Before Wife could unleash her reserves of discipline upon the little girl, #4 blurted out her defense as only a five year-old could. “I didn’t know! I didn’t know that if I pushed #5 he would step on #6’s head! I didn’t know!”
Needless to say, her excuse was not enough to save her from the trouble she was in.
Of course it must be mentioned that #4 is more intelligent than I would like. A stupid child might take some time to learn what is unacceptable, however once learned they simply stop. But a smart child takes longer, especially if they are obstinate like #4, for once it got through her thick head picking on her younger siblings by tattling would only get her in trouble, she quickly began to explore other avenues. So now we have to watch out for her more subtle manipulations. Let me illustrate.
#4 had been waiting for her turn with the toy that #6 had. #6 decided that he had not had enough time. #4 took matters into her own hands. “Ok,” she said, “if you don’t give it to me I’m gonna to count to ten. I’m going to count to ten and if you don’t give it to me I’m gonna tell you that your drawing, the one you drew for mommy, I gonna tell you that it is ugly. Ok. One… two… three… four… five… six… seven… eight… nine… ten! Ok! Your drawing is ugly!”
The shock of all was it worked! The three year-old burst into uncontrollable weeping until his sister took the toy and then assured him that his drawing was not ugly.